Don’t Get Smished this Holiday Season

Creative Commons image by Adam Koford.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has sent out a warning about an increase in “smishing.”

No, that’s not a kind of group grope by mobs of roving asexual, polyamorous and predatory cuddle-furries yiffing on your groovie fursona. It’s the text-message equivalent of phishing, which is called “smishing” not “tishing” because of “SMS text.” “SMS” stands, of course, for “short message service,” though only mobile phone ads and fine print and, apparently, the FBI, ever use the SMS part.

“Smishing” is when someone pulls a phishing scam by text — that is to say, texting you to helpfully let you know that there’s been a problem with your bank account and could you please call in and give us your ATM card number, PIN, expiration date, mother’s maiden name, bra size and the badge number of the last TSA agent who groped you. The information is then used (you saw this coming, didn’t you?) to dollarjack the green for your adorable rugrats’ Santa Barbie right out of your account, and teaching us all a valuable lesson about consumerism.

According to the FBI, these scams are growing because “a growing number of Americans own mobile phones,” which is helpful of them to point out. They also warn about “vishing” scams, which are the same gig using automated voice calls.

Here’s our boys and girls in charcoal-grey again:

Other holiday cyber scams to watch out for, according to IC3, include:

* Phishing schemes using e-mails that direct victims to spoofed merchant websites misleading them into providing personal information.

* Online auction and classified ad fraud, where Internet criminals post products they don’t have but charge the consumer’s credit card anyway and pocket the money.

* Delivery fraud, where online criminals posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping labels for a fee. When the customer tries to ship a package using a phony label, the legitimate delivery service flags it and requests payment from the customer.


Of these three scams that the Feds warn us about, I’m shamed as a crime wonk to say I’ve only heard of two, which is why you’re even reading about this. The spoofed merchant labels is a new one to me. It seems awfully far-fetched — not that it wouldn’t work with some cats, teaching us all a valuable lesson about the crazed bargain-hunting some of you are already revving your engines for.

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